Well-Fed: Food on the Homestead

Where does it come from? How is it stored?

Nothing like fresh salad! Photo Credit: Makiko Yoshida

To us, self-sufficiency means providing most of our own food. In most cases, food sourced by your own hand is affordable, healthy, and more delicious. Once you have tasted fresh lettuce out of the garden or a perfectly ripe strawberry, any other will pale in comparison. You are serving up great rewards when you eat a meal composed solely of ingredients you harvested from your garden.

A full freezer. Not aesthetically pleasing, but a very happy sight! Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

Meat:

What kind of Meat:

Our meat consists primarily of wild game. In our surrounding hills, caribou, Dall sheep, and Moose are common wildlife. Alaskan hunting regulations are extremely strict. Most hunting occurs in the fall months. Our game management unit (GMU) also includes some winter hunts. These are great if we have not harvested enough meat in the fall seasons. We make a point of harvest all parts of the animal, from the meat, the organs, and the hide. Caribou heart is a delicacy!

Winter food. Photo Credit: Makiko Yoshida

We occasionally trade for meat on the road system. Last year, we worked out a work trade with our close friends that have a farm. We butchered 1/2 of a 400 lb pig. This gave us lard, pork chops, bacon, and sausage.

Pork! Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

How is it preserved:

We cure, dry, or freeze meat. Two years ago we flew in a freezer that we can run off of our solar panels. That makes keeping meat much easier. We don’t do much meat canning, though that is something we hope to pursue in the future. We also render all fat off of animals into lard that we can later use for cooking, baking, or sausage making.

Vegetables

What are they: 90% of our vegetables come from the garden or wild from the surrounding landscape.

Late July Morning. Photo, Margaret Stern

During the summer months, we grow a 6,000 square foot garden. We grow a majority of root vegetables as well as greens and fruits.  This garden provides us with enough food to subsist through the winter. We grow an excess that we sell to hunting lodges and, on occasion, a farmer’s market on the road system.

We also collect many wild greens and berries.

At the beginning of the winter we purchase a few 10lb sacks of onions from Costco for the season.

How are they preserved:

Root vegetables. Beets, Turnips, Fodder Beets, Carrots. Packed in sawdust and placed in the root cellar

Cabbages and Kohl Rabi: Placed in sacks and placed in the root cellar.

Cabbages for the root cellar.
Photo credit: Caity Potter

Potatoes: Hung in bags in the root cellar

Lettuces: Dug, placed in buckets, brought inside

Lettuce to come inside. Photo credit: Caity Potter

Garlic, Shallots, and Onions: hung and dried inside.

Herbs and teas: dried

Hardy greens: blanched and frozen

Turnip greens, blanched and frozen.
Photo Credit: Makiko Yoshida

Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes: Pots brought inside before frost and eaten fresh.

Cabbages: Fermented into kraut and kimchi

Root vegetables: lacto-fermented

Lacto fermented turnips. Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

Wild greens: Sun-dried

Berries: Frozen or made into jam

Blueberries. Yum!
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Selktas

Dairy:

We are unable to produce many of our own dairy products at the homestead. We have Icelandic chickens that provide us with eggs during the fall, spring and summer. In the winter, they slow down quite a bit. We bring in a case of eggs from Costco and keep it in the root cellar. We import cheese and butter in bulk from Costco. We keep a store of powdered milk, too.

What is not sourced from the homestead?

Flour, Rice, Beans, Chocolate, Coffee, Spices, Nut butter, Nuts, Pasta, Dried Fruit, Black tea. These come from Costco. We are always on the hunt for a value. In Alaska, Costco has the best deals around.

What are typical Homestead Meals?

Fall Breakfast: Eggs with greens, pancakes, coffee, and homemade cranberry juice. Photo Credit: Caity Potter

In the wintertime, here are some typical meals.

Breakfast: Steel cut oats with blueberry jam, Homegrown potatoes with Chicken eggs, Sourdough pancakes with jam, Sourdough toats

Lunch: Caribou sandwich, broth and bread, leftover breakfast (we aren’t big lunch eaters)

Dinner: Moose Chili, Caribou curry, Wild Game Stew, Turnip Soup, Beet soup, Veggie stir fry, Moose-ghetti. Often times with sourdough Bread.

Products we Recommend for Preserving the Harvest:

Everything we recommend you can find in our home. Click on the photos to find a link for purchase.

Root Cellaring:  Most of our crops go into the root cellar. This book on root cellaring educated us so that we could build our own root cellar. We recommend it to anyone wanting to take on their own crop storage project.

Lacto fermentation is one of my favorite ways to preserve food on the homestead. This is a very particular art. If you have never facto-fermented before, I recommend Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation. This book provides a great understanding for the process of fermentation and the science behind it.

For large batches of Sauerkrauts, Kimchi, and Pickles, we use large German-style Crocks. We have 3 or 4 of these Crocks filled in our root cellar and highly recommend them.

For smaller Lacto-Fermentation projects, we like to use these air-lock lids for wide mouth Ball jars. They are incredibly useful if you want to try out new recipes or simply want smaller servings of a fermented product. I use them for my favorite turnip pickles!

For making jams and jellies, we try to use as little sugar as possible. This is for health reasons, and because sugar is expensive and heavy! Because of this, we prefer Pomona’s Universal Pectin.

For powdered milk, we have a favorite brand of whole-fat powdered milk that we put in coffee, use for baking, and making. More fat is better for us in the cold weather, and it tastes infinitely more satisfying!

Hopefully this provides some ideas for your own homestead and some information on one of the questions we consistently receive… What do you eat??

Keep in touch as we will be offering a few events for the coming year related to this post.

We will finalize dates before the New Year

Cheers, and happy harvests.

Margaret

Life Dictated by Flyable Weather

October. A month of weather. Ice fog blanketed the landscape for days. When it lifted, the snow fell. When the snow stopped and the clouds cleared, temperatures dropped, and the wind howled. October consistently dishes out the worst weather we see.

Ice Fog: Normally this view is of  7,000 ft peaks! Photo Credit: Morgan Beasley

Normally we hunker down, writing out plans for the winter and roughing out the summer schedule. This year, the weather kept us apart for much of the month.

Morgan was kind enough to hold down the fort, working on cabin projects while Margaret was weathered on the eastern side of the range in our road system base for two weeks. When the weather was nice on our side of the mountains, there was wind and low ceilings in the mountain passes. The weather was simply not safely flyable. Luckily, it was a great trip to spend time with friends fishing, practice off-airport plane operations, writing, and prepping supplies for winter flights.

Dolly Varden on the Susitna River Photo Credit: Israel Mahay

When Margaret returned, Morgan went back to town to do some work on the plane putting on skis and doing basic maintenance with our friends at Fly Around Alaska.

We did spend Halloween together. For the holiday, we made home-made peanut butter cup candies, watched a spooky movie, and took a spooky nighttime walk.

The transition of the landscape east to west. Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

 

Coming up, we are grateful for a few months of quiet, skiing traplines, working on shop orders, and planning for summer. Looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving grouse hunt and another year of safe, happy, off-grid living.

Spruce Root Heart. Gratitude Photo Credit: Caity Potter

Since this was such a short month, I have decided to add another post about food on the homestead. It highlights what food we are able to get from our garden and the surrounding landscape, how we preserve it, and books and products we use to preserve our food.

New potatoes from the garden. 450 pounds put away for winter! Photo Credit: Makiko Yoshida

Take a look, and please let us know what other topics you would like to hear about.

Water System, Final Harvests, Friends   September 2018 September was a unique month for us at the homestead… and away from the homestead. During the beginning of the month, Morgan laid insulated pipe for our gray water system. We are increasingly closer to running water at the homestead! The pieces are all coming together. During […]

August 2018 Fall has hit. We are entering mid-October, and just now reviewing the final flash of summer. Before the snow flurries, we enter our own mad flurry of preparation for colder months. As with each summer season before, we kept busy with projects. We are consistently more ambitious than time allows. August kicked off […]

Ponies, Fencing… and Running Water??

July 2018

Summer in the North is a great blur. Folks say that the constant light is as beautiful as it is disorienting. Has it been one day punctuated by many naps, or has it been a month? It is hard to tell where the day starts and stops.

July in the mountains. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Selktas

July evaporated quickly into hot days that lent life to the garden. This week, in early August, we find ourselves asking, “What on earth happened to the summer?” These reviews of the month are a great opportunity to sit down and think about the trial and accomplishments endured during each chapter of homestead living.

Late July Morning. Photo, Margaret Stern

July was full of homestead guests including Morgan’s mom. Katy made her second trip to the homestead. It is always a joy to spend time with family in our home. We enjoyed her insight into our forest habitat, her help with chores, and the delectable treats she packed in from Texas (peaches and Okra make a Texas girl happy).

Katy, Andrea, Margaret and Morgan enjoying fried Okra and LingCod Photo Credit: Katy Kavanagh

Together, Margaret and Katy extended the fence for pastures, garden, and airstrip. All fencing was converted to 3-strand wire for better horse, moose, and bear deterrent. While they fenced, WWOOFer Andrea and Morgan worked on further digging out our root cellar. Most exciting, Morgan struck water for our well at about 6 feet below grade! Once the well if fully developed means in cabin water access. No chopping daily holes in winter ice or hauling 5 gallon buckets. There is much work to be done to complete this task, but the end is nearly in sight.

Morgan digging Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

The greatest excitement of the month occurred in Late July. Two new additions, colts Svanur (Icelandic for Swan) and Vinur (Icelandic for Friend), arrived at the homestead. With a team including the always wonderful Talkeetna Air Taxi and new friends Tammy and Roy from On the Road Again Transport, these brave animals flew out to a remote airstrip 15 miles from the homestead. Margaret met Morgan and the animals at that remote strip, and the crew of 5 (Margaret, Morgan, Svanur, Vinur, and Magpie) trekked through the night to get back to the homestead at 4:30 in the morning. Good thing it never gets dark!

Tammy, Svanur, Roy and Morgan on a plane. Photo Credit: Tammy Sunderland

 

Trekking with Svanur and Vinur. Photo Credit: Morgan Beasley

Here is a link to some media from the horse transport operation, thanks to Tammy of On the Road Transport:

https://www.facebook.com/Luxuryequestriantransport/

Horse Transport Dream Team

The new horses have adjusted well to their new surroundings. Currently, they are right around the homestead on pasture and in the barn as we bond and continue to train them. A fantastic training foundation has been instilled by Fitjamyri Farm of British Colombia and  Tammy and Roy of On the Road Transport.

Svanur and Vinur Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

Svanur and Vinur have met the other horses, however it will take a while for them to be fully integrated into the rest of the herd. We will keep you updated on their progress.

Neisti Guards his mares from the new colts Photo credit: Margaret Stern

Other July happenings? Continued work on the root cellar, delicious garden harvests, the first wild blueberries, and ripe garden strawberries. Yum!`

Additionally, Margaret got a lot of carving done. Here is a hand-carved Spruce Burl custom bowl for an art collector. These burls are acquired on winter trapline outings. We both love creating things from the natural world around us. Please contact us for our current selection of goods and pricing.

Spruce Burl Bowl Photo Credit: Margaret Stern

It is early August now. Darkness, though brief, has arrived. Summer will soon fade into a dream as we rush headfirst into fall. Cooler temperatures, the garden harvest, and the rush to complete all of our summer projects.

We are just starting to fill our bookings calendar for the Summer of 2019. We would love to host you! Please get in touch and let us know how we can design your Alaska homestead vacation.

Also, we are hoping to update our blog more regularly. Let us know the kinds of posts you would be interested in.

Cheers

Margaret & Morgan (and all the homestead critters)